NEW YORK – A man was arrested in Canada on Wednesday on U.S. charges that he was a long-distance conspirator and booster for Tunisian jihadists in Iraq, urging them in a series of messages to kill "dog Americans" in suicide bombings.
Federal prosecutors in Brooklyn allege that though Faruq Khalil Muhammad 'Isa never left Canada, he was key part of a terror network involved in separate attacks in Iraq in 2009 that killed five American soldiers outside a U.S. base and seven people at an Iraqi police complex.
Muhammad 'Isa, a 38-year-old Canadian citizen and Iraqi national, was arrested in Edmonton, Alberta, on a U.S. warrant after a joint investigation by the FBI's New York Joint Terrorism Task Force, Royal Canadian Mounted Police and Tunisian authorities. He never posed a danger to the public, there, however, Royal Canadian Mounted Police Sgt. Patrick Webb said.
"This arrest was affected today without any difficulty whatsoever," Webb said.
Prosecutors were seeking the defendant's extradition to Brooklyn to face federal charges of conspiring to kill Americans and providing material support to terrorists. Webb said an extradition hearing was pending in Edmonton, and the defendant could be quickly returned to the U.S. if he waives extradition, but "if it's disputed through the courts it could be years."
If convicted, Muhammad 'Isa faces life in prison.
The case is proof that there "is no safe harbor for terrorists, including those who endeavor to spread violence from halfway across the world," U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch said in a statement.
Using wiretaps and other methods, investigators linked Muhammad 'Isa to a terror network they say used a suicide bomber to detonate an explosives-laden truck outside the gate of the U.S. base in Mosul, Iraq on April 10, 2009 that killed the five soldiers. The complaint says the group also staged a suicide bombing on the Iraqi police station on March 31, 2009.
The day after the soldiers were killed, Muhammad 'Isa was captured on tape discussing the attack with one his Iraqi-based cohorts, the complaint says.
"He was one of the Tunisian brothers," he said of the bomber, according to the complaint. "Praise God. May God acknowledge him."
The complaint says Muhammad 'Isa advised one would-be suicide bomber in March 2009 to "keep reading the Quran and repeat the famous prayers on the way until you meet with God." Tunisian authorities arrested the man when he tried to leave the country in April 2009.
In another conversation last year, the defendant allegedly urged another man to target Americans in the name of Islam.
"Islam came for the good of humanity," he said, according to the complaint. "So if someone doesn't like good, we fight them, like those dog Americans."
U.S. authorities allege Muhammad 'Isa informed the network leader in January that he too hoped to die as a martyr in Iraq, adding, "Even if I can't work over there, I can work here."
Authorities said he sometimes used code language. He referred to the attacks as "farming" because, in his words, the bombers "plant metal and harvest metal and flesh," according to the complaint.
Both U.S. authorities and Webb said late Wednesday that they didn't know if Muhammad 'Isa had a lawyer.
Associated Press writer Rob Gillies in Toronto contributed to this report.